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increase strength

Standing Military Shoulder Press: Is It Just A Shoulder Exercise?

I consider the standing military shoulder press to be one of… if not the best upper body lifts! Why? Not only does this lift sculpt some pretty impressive shoulders but it will greatly increase your upper body strength for other lifts. To get the most benefits out of this exercise, we are going to take a look at how you can utilize a “power surge” to lift the weight while increasing ab definition all at once.  Implementing this sneaky technique will help you bring out the best in other pressing movements. I truly believe that every man and woman should include this exercise into their regular weight training program.

standing military shoulder press Standing Military Shoulder Press: Is It Just A Shoulder Exercise?

(Ryan Reynolds has some of the best shoulders in Hollywood. This is the kind of look you want to aim for…if you are a guy.)

Generate A Boost In Your Shoulders By Contracting The Abs

This is one of the biggest reasons why I highly recommend standing for this particular lift. When standing, the abs act as the mediator between your hips and your shoulders. So by contracting the abs, it provides a very stable foundation for you to push upwards from. This will also help increase a greater contraction in both your shoulders and triceps. Thus, maximizing the amount of weight lifted.

Protect The Spine, Flex Those Abs

In a previous post I explained the importance of protecting your spine by generating strong abs. Keeping the abs tight and flexed will keep you from slouching or sagging while pressing the weight overhead. So not only will this protect your spine but it will sculpt up the midsection. It’s definitely a nice side benefit from a shoulder exercise.

Generate Even More Power With This Sneaky Technique

We know that breathing properly during each rep is very important but let’s kick it up a notch. “More power!” as Tim Allen would say, is exactly what we are going to elevate with some advanced breathing techniques. Before lifting the weight make sure to take a deep breath in. As you begin to lift the weight you want to simultaneously flex your abs while forcing the air out of your lungs. You want to make sure that you tighten your lips so the air has a little more difficulty escaping too fast. Doing this for at least 3-5 seconds (or longer) to get all the air out will give you the ability to flex the abs even harder. This breathing technique increases ab definition, supports the spine, and ultimately generates more power to your shoulders to finish the lift. It’s like one stop shopping!

Two Schools Of Thought On The Proper Way To Start The Lift

I will be honest; I don’t know which one is better or more effective so I will let you decide. Just be smart. I see a majority of people set their barbell on a squat rack close to shoulder height and then taking the weight off and lifting from there. Some people think that you should start by lifting the weight into a “clean” position. Their reasoning is that if you can’t clean the weight into starting position then you have no business trying to lift the weight above your head. I understand both viewpoints but I am not going to say what way is superior. What I will say is that I am NOT a fan of using “wrist straps.” Developing real grip strength is far superior.

Grip Strength Incorporates “Irradiation”

We have already established in a previous post, “Enhance Your Upper Body Strength With Thick Bar Training” how increasing grip strength will ultimately increase upper body strength. Well I have been using Fat Gripz for the standing military barbell press for awhile now and I am hooked more than ever. I have noticed significant strength gains in other lifts because of it. Why could this be happening? Remember, the harder you can contract or generate tension in a muscle the more strength will be demonstrated in that muscle. Well the principle of “irradiation” says that a muscle can be contracted even harder when the surrounding muscles are contracted. This is what is happening when the forearms are generating tension from Fat Gripz’ thick handles. As the forearms are generating tension, your biceps, triceps, and shoulders will “borrow” strength from the forearms.

To Sit Or Not To Sit

I have done seated dumbbell shoulder presses for a long time and they still do very well developing the shoulders. But it just doesn’t have the same maximizing benefits as the standing shoulder press. Instead of just scrapping the exercise, I include both of them. I use a barbell for the standing military shoulder press and dumbbells for the sitting shoulder press. Utilizing both standing and sitting exercises will without a doubt increase your gains in all other upper body moves.

Isometric Exercises And Partial Reps: Increase Strength And Definition With Or Without Weight

Isometric exercises are very basic but implementing them into your workouts can really help you gain more strength. But before we dive in, let’s lay some groundwork. The principle behind isometric exercises is the contraction of muscles without the use of movement. Ex: pushing as hard as you can against a wall that doesn’t move. Strength and definition can definitely increase with these type of exercises, but a few tweaks are needed.

11323364 350d294417 Isometric Exercises And Partial Reps: Increase Strength And Definition With Or Without Weight(Just another cool picture to look at)

  Muscle Definition(Tone) And The Nervous System

For those who are new here, we can’t move forward on isometrics until we understand how to increase the definition of a muscle while increasing strength. Lifting heavy weights for low reps with ample rest tones the muscle and adds strength without adding size. Learning to activate the mind-muscle link during your lifts will deliver strong nerve impulses to the muscles without actually breaking muscle fiber. Training in this manner primes the nervous system. Over time your muscles will look like they are in a slightly flexed state while resting. Do you see the connection??

Mind To Muscle Activation To Allow Even Heavier Weights

To fully understand the mind to muscle link to weightlifting, let’s use the bicep curl for example. When people are holding a dumbbell, their first reaction is to throw the weight up without thinking about it. You are going to be smarter while making your workouts more efficient. Instead, squeeze the dumbbell hard and increase the tension in your bicep BEFORE you lift the weight. So you will be squeezing and increasing tension until the weight is moved upward. Not only will you be lifting in a safer manner, but you will surprise yourself with increased strength gains from week to week. The more you “think” about activating the muscles before you perform a rep(in any exercise) the more a “lagging” muscle will develop.

Heavy Weight Lifting Isn’t The Only Way To Add Strength

As time goes by you will ultimately get better at contracting the muscle hard when lifting heavy weights so ultimately strength will increase. But what about increasing strength without using heavy weights? Even if you don’t have access to heavy weights, you can actually get stronger with lighter weights by “acting” as if they were super heavy. This goes back to the idea of squeezing and contracting your muscles as hard as you can before the lift, then maintaining the tension during the lift. What about no weights? If you don’t have weights at all, this is where isometrics come into play.

image004 Isometric Exercises And Partial Reps: Increase Strength And Definition With Or Without Weight

(Isometric exercise at its finest)

Isometrics And Bodyweight Holds

You can effectively increase muscle definition and strength with isometrics as long as you have the mind to muscle link down. Isometric exercises do a very good job of contracting the muscles hard without using weights. Planks are my favorite isometric “non-movement” move because they sculpt and strengthen the abs very well without adding bulk. You can also perform various exercises in this manner without weights. Let’s use pushups for example. You can effectively make pushups a lot harder by adding static holds. Holding your body ½ way down in a flexed position for around 30 seconds will contract your muscles without any movement. Now to increase the efficiency of these “holds” would be to concentrate on contracting the muscles as hard as you can.

Isometric Holds With Partial Reps To Get Through Sticking Points

Isometric holds can be very useful with the use of weights as well. Static/partial reps come in handy if you are having difficulty pushing through strength plateu’s.  Mixing in static holds in your rep scheme can help you through these difficult sticking points. Let’s use the bench press for example. A full rep would consist of the lockout position(2-6 inches or so) and then squeezing and contracting your muscles to slowly lift the weight in a controlled manner until it reaches the max height. So what you do is repeat the same process but stop once the weight moves, which is usually in the lockout position. Start over again and wait about 1-2 seconds and repeat. Doing this for about 3-4 reps(partial) and pausing for about a second between each rep will over time enable you to increase the amount of weight being used for full reps.

Note: Partial reps are effective but limit them for a couple times a year with a duration of around four weeks.  Not all exercises can be done in this fashion nor does it work for every body part. Also, be smart and put up the “safety” bars if you decide to do this with the bench press. 

Finish Off Your Exercises With Full Reps

It’s a good idea to finish off your partial reps with full motion lifts. You want to make sure you don’t compromise flexibility. The cool thing is that you will notice the previous weight will feel much lighter in your hands.

Note: If this post is a little confusing, please let me know and I can try and explain a little better. It makes sense in my mind what I am trying to explain but it can be difficult to put it down for others to read.